The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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AC fails, officials become surety

Calcutta, Oct. 9: Railway officials were forced to accompany passengers as guarantors on a Chennai-bound train to a station near Howrah for repair after air-conditioners failed to function in a coach tonight.

The passengers on coach 3A of 6003 Up Chennai Mail, which was stopped while chugging out of the station and was at the centre of a storm for over two hours, included a few heart patients who were on their way to the south for treatment.

The standoff ended after an unusual deal under which the train, carrying all the passengers and a few railway as well as police officers, was taken to Santragachhi for repairing the air-conditioners.

When the train left Howrah a few minutes after 11 pm – instead of the scheduled 8.45 pm -- officials said if the coach could not be repaired, it would be replaced at Santragachhi, the fourth station from Howrah. Santragachhi was chosen because it was the nearest station with facilities for repair as well as replacement.

Half the train was out of platform number 21 when the passengers stopped the mail by pulling the chain. “The compartment was warm when we boarded but we thought it will become cool when the train moves. But nothing happened. We had no option but to stop the train as the windows of such coaches cannot be opened,” said R. Jagadeesan, a passenger.

Railway officials tried to persuade the passengers to resume their journey by saying the coach would be repaired at Santragachhi. But few were convinced.

Most passengers felt that once the train left Howrah, the coach was unlikely to be attended to. They told the officials that technicians should be called to the platform. But the officials said the technicians were available only at Santragachhi.

As a heated argument began, another twist was added. The unscheduled halt of the Chennai Mail had held up the departure of another long-distance train – the Pune-bound Azad Hind Express - and the arrival of the Ranchi-Hatia Express.

The passengers of Azad Hind, which was scheduled to leave at 9.10 pm, joined in, asking the officials why the train was being held up for no fault of their own.

As pressure mounted on the officials from both sides, they agreed to accompany the Chennai Mail passengers to Santragachhi.

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